Why Is Everyone So Frustrated? Uncovering and Addressing Expectation Gaps


Feeling the strain of unmet expectations in your team? Discover why everyone is so frustrated and how addressing expectation gaps can transform your organizational culture.

Are People Frustrated In or Around Your Organization? 

Or perhaps you’re frustrated.

If you’re in a leadership position, you’re probably sensing some amount of frustration with the people in and around your organization.

The odds are that these people are experiencing some frustration with you, too.

The reason is simple (and we’ve covered this before). The gap between what people expect and experience is the source of nearly all frustration.

Many expectations are valid. Some are partially valid, while others are entirely invalid. Or made up.

How do you know the difference?

A Leadership or Staff Meeting Exercise

If you have an upcoming staff meeting or training, use this exercise to address these frustrations and, more specifically, the underlying expectations.

The exercise is built on three questions:

  1. What did you expect before you started?
  2. What do you expect of leadership?
  3. What should people expect of you?

Ask people these questions individually, giving them time to ponder and process their answers. Have people write down their answers.

Next, ask a few deeper questions:

  1. Who created these expectations?
  2. Which expectations were explicitly communicated or implicitly assumed?
  3. Have you discussed your expectations with your leadership, peers, or direct reports?
  4. How have you communicated your expectations to your leadership, peers, and direct reports?
  5. How much of your frustrations are created by unstated expectations you’re holding?

This exercise aims to illuminate how we all tend to create expectations that were never validated or communicated. Meaning, most of our frustrations are self-inflicted.

A Church Staff (or Volunteer) Example

I served as a lead pastor for 13 years. It doesn’t take long for a church staff member to realize working for a church can challenge their personal faith journey. Faith is challenging when it becomes a job.

However, most people interviewing for a church position assume their faith will automatically grow simply by being on the church staff.

This is an expectation.

It’s unsaid. But it’s still expected.

When a staff member realizes a few months into the job that their faith isn’t necessarily growing by default of their job, it causes frustration. Why? Their experience doesn’t match their expectation. And whose fault is that? Not the lead pastor or their supervisor. It’s their fault. They began their role with an unstated and assumed expectation.

When People Are Frustrated…

When people are frustrated, it’s a leader’s job to help resolve the tension. Too often, leaders miss the connection between expectations and experiences.

To resolve this tension, help everyone unearth what they are expecting, why they are expecting it, who created it, and how these expectations can become a conversation.